Better Things

They say this is the best TV show of the year.

At least some people do. EW I think it was.

I’ve got a thing for Pamela Adlon. The way she’s so little yet is willing to take up so much space. I noticed her on that old Louis CK “Honeymooners” style show on HBO, it was unwatchable but she was not. I’m drawn to anyone who breaks the norm. Although she probably breaks the norm too much for me, and would be disappointed in my wimpoid tendencies. And how do you have three kids, and raise them on your own, with enough money to make it all work.

In real life Adlon is a voiceover artist. Unknown but handsomely compensated.

Now she’s got this show on FX.

The first episode didn’t work. The problem with “Better Things” is too often there’s not enough said. They focus on mood, there are close-ups and you’re waiting for the dialogue. You realize this is the same thing Louie is doing. A brand new sliver of show-making. But I’m one who never had a problem with the Aaron Sorkin rat-a-tat-tat.

But what they’re going after, the mood they’re trying to capture, it’s spectacular. Kind of like listening to Jackson Browne’s “Late For The Sky.” That’s what the singer-songwriter thing was all about, deep feelings, more questions than answers, that’s something that’s gone from the hit parade, which is probably why it’s so less appealing to me. There are a ton of boasters, a ton of fakers, but very few who are real.

Adlon is not afraid to be hated by her kids. A revelation after boomer parents who insisted on being their progeny’s best friend. Disappointed in themselves if they didn’t live up to some mythical standard. Adlon is more like our parents, she’s doing her best, and she’s not always getting it right, but she’s soldiering on.

And although you can see the trappings of her lifestyle, it’s not Kardashian-esque, all her friends are not beautiful and fabulous, it’s the anti “Real Housewives” paradigm.

And when she tells off that guy she’s been screwing…

Maybe the rapists don’t ask you if you came, but the sensitive guys frightened by Me Too always get around to asking this question, they want to be liked, they want to deliver. And when you’re not happy, they are not.

Adlon has sex before they go out so she doesn’t have to go home with him. She’s giving him what he wants, even though he can sense she doesn’t want to. And when he gets indignant, she lets into him… I don’t think I could handle this in real life, but when Adlon settles the score, talks about sucking his dick and performing up to his high maintenance standards we can see that oftentimes it’s the men who are needy, and the women who are in control. Modern life is so confusing, and it’s not always funny.

You set on a path and then it closes out. Everybody who was married when you were divorced is now uncoupled. And you wince at the way you behaved in previous relationships. Growing old is learning to let someone be themselves, however difficult this might be. You think you want everything, when you’re lucky if you get something.

And then Adlon meets someone kinda right. And the truth is do women want a sensitive guy or not, I’m not sure. They used to say they did, before sexuality permeated everyday life to the degree it now does. Now if you’re too sensitive you’re kicked to the curb. But this guy is trying to get it right and explaining himself and that can either bond you together or pull you apart. I remember one late night conversation in bed where I laid it all out, my history, my flaws, figuring this was the end, but it made us closer than ever before. But a few days later I said something I shouldn’t have and I pulled away, my shrink said I was freaked out about being too close.

And the shrink reference may make you laugh, but if you think you know where you’re going in this life, have got it together, you’re sorely mistaken.

So I continue to watch “Better Things,” for these moments. When Pamela Adlon is at loose ends. When she’s marching forward when she doesn’t have the wherewithal. When she says it would be great if her ex came by for dinner more, but she just can’t handle it.

How do we handle life when we’re middle-aged?

We’re too old for songs.

We’ve got feelings we too rarely verbalize. We want to share, but we don’t want to be judged.

Then we stumble on to something like “Better Things” and we get a glimpse of our inner life, we no longer feel so alone, we recognize it’s not about winning, but coping, waiting for the resonant moments.

This is art.


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